I’m going to preface this with the disclaimer: This entire post is just my own thoughts. Mental Illness isn’t a “one size fits all” issue, and everything I express in this post has absolutely no basis of expertise aside from my own life experience.
You don’t have to listen to a single, solitary thing I have to say. I’m just one more twat on the internet with an opinion, but maybe, just maybe, I can help someone by sharing this.
I always find depression and suicide are difficult subjects to address, really. I know I have a great deal to say about both, but generally I steer clear of talking about my own experiences on the matter. That said, seeing my social media blow up after the deaths of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, reading and hurting for other people coming forward with their own stories, and quietly fuming at others who have no understanding and would rather point fingers than learn anything, I’ve decided today is as good a time as any.
I’ve suffered with reoccurring depression since I was around sixteen or seventeen. I’m not a medical professional, so I couldn’t tell you if there was any specific trigger, but I know that the doctor I was seeing at the time dismissed it as teenage hormones. I was left feeling foolish for trying to talk about the yawning darkness that seemed to threaten to swallow me at any moment, and that if I ever brought it up it was just silly complaining, because everyone dealt with it.
I struggled through for a few years, learning quickly that no one wanted to see how miserable I was, so smiling and laughing, and finding some kind of solace in being the person that my loved ones could come and talk to. I knew how it felt not to be listened to or taken seriously, so it felt good being able to make sure other people didn’t experience that.
By the age of nineteen, I was an insomniac, I had an eating disorder, I’d begun to self-harm, and finally, I tried to take my own life.
I failed, but it was enough of a wake-up for me to finally get help. I changed doctors, I was prescribed anti-depressants and had regular therapy. I managed to claw myself out of the deep, dark hole I’d fallen into, and after a year or so of intense treatment and rehab, my weight returned to normal, I could sleep again, and I stopped wanting to hurt myself.
After that, I noticed each year that while I’d always have good days and bad days, my worst time tended to be from January to May. My doctor diagnosed me with S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and I learnt to recognise the signs early and manage them as quickly and efficiently as possible so that I didn’t spiral downwards to a point I couldn’t recover from again.
Unfortunately, when I was twenty-seven, I had a relapse. I don’t know how it got so bad so fast, but my weight ballooned up this time, I stopped sleeping, I missed work, stopped socialising, and began to self-harm once again. It wasn’t until I took a pair of scissors to myself, sitting alone at 3am, bleeding and sobbing, that I realised I needed help.
I was again prescribed anti-depressants and intensive therapy, and taught an entire repertoire of coping mechanisms that didn’t involve cutting myself to pieces just to feel something.
That’s the thing I feel a lot of people don’t understand about depression and self-harm. I suppose it varies from person to person, but for me and many others, it’s a way to feel something other than the consuming hopelessness and misery. It’s a terrible realisation, but the sharp sting of physical pain is frequently preferable and easier to manage.
For those people who have said to me or anyone that everyone gets sad sometimes, I want you to go back and read that last paragraph again. Because you need to sit down and shut up.
It took me longer to crawl my way out this time, and on some level I can’t help but wonder if I ever fully recovered, but I dealt with it day to day as best I could. Some days better than others, but always fully determined not to let the chemical imbalance in my brain win. I’m a stubborn bitch, and in this instance, that’s served me well.
But I’m tired. I’m now thirty-three, and the past six months I’ve been slipping again.
I’ve suffered tremendous and heart-breaking losses the past three years. I’ve moved away from my family, my marriage fell apart, my writing career has withered away to nothing but the occasional blog post, and I’ve been used, hurt, and abandoned by an entire slew of people who haven’t even thought twice about the devastation they’ve left in their wake. I don’t feel valued or wanted, and I’m starting to feel like my entire worth is just simply based on how useful I can be to others, and what kind of existence is that, really?
On top of that, two of the most important people in my life have recently died, and one of those committed suicide. I miss him terribly, and I frequently feel responsible for not being there to help him through his dark time, and bring him back into the light again.
But I wonder, have any of you noticed? Through this entire narrative, I haven’t once mentioned having a network of support aside from medical professionals, and my own pig-headedness.
Now, that’s not because they haven’t been there. I have people I can call when things get too hard to handle, but I frequently don’t bother unless I’m truly teetering on the edge of a crisis.
No matter how many pretty infographics people share online, the truth is that most will only be supportive of depression through the early stages. After a while, they get sick of hearing how unhappy you are, because honestly? It’s exhausting.
Having spent many years trying to be a source of support to other people going through bad times, I want to say that it’s incredibly draining. I don’t blame any of my friends or family for occasionally getting impatient with my teetering moods, for telling me to try yoga, to just get some sleep, to try a different diet, to go out and get some sunshine, to smile anyway. I know that they care about me and just want me to be okay, and I appreciate more than any of them that it’s fucking tiring to deal with depression.
That might sound bleak, but I see so many people saying if you’re depressed that you need to ask for help, but it’s not that simple. Some of us have asked for help, and received nothing but scorn, or worse, indifference. Some of us have gone to people we love and trust, only to watch them slowly back away after a few months.
After a while, you stop telling people. You stop talking about it. You become isolated, and that only exacerbates the feeling of loneliness and self-loathing depression stirs inside of us.
That’s why it’s so hard. It’s very easy to say on Twitter or Facebook that you should talk and feel loved, but in practice it’s not that simple. That’s why I don’t talk about it. Time and experience have taught me that unless someone has been there themselves, they have no concept of what you’re going through, or even how to help. All you end up doing is isolating yourself further.
Depression isn’t black and white. It’s something that each person has to cope with in a way that suits them. My advice? See a doctor. See a therapist. Call a helpline. Go to people trained and capable of aiding you.
Just because depression makes you feel alone, and frequently isolates you just by its very nature, doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. It just means you have to go to people who understand your needs, and can provide you with the weapons to fight your way out.
Believe in yourself.
Don’t let the darkness win.